© 2008 Provincial Grand Court of Wessex
The address to Brethren on the Banner Dedication. Presented by : The Most Worshipful GRAND MASTER: Michael H Roalfe, PGHCh, GCSM
Link To Address, MWGM Link To Address, MWGM Selection of Photographs Selection of Photographs
                     oda teoday   we   witness   the   Dedication   of   a   Banner   to   the   Province   of   Wessex   within The   Masonic   Order   of   Athelstan   in   England,   Wales   and   Provinces   Overseas.   Until June   2008,   such   a   short   time   ago,   the   Province   of   Wessex   was   purely   a   phrase within   the   Order   to   refer   to   an   area   consisting   of   Dorset,   Somerset,   Wiltshire, Bristol, Devon and Cornwall. Since   its   formation,   under   the   direction   of   R.W.   Bro.   Malcolm   James   Burns ;   the Primus   Provincial   Grand   Master;   the   Province   has   flourished.   He   has   been   greatly assisted   from   its   formation   by   his   close   friend   W.Bro.   Brian   George   Wright   the Provincial   Grand   Secretary   and   Deputy   Grand   Secretary.   The   successful   growth has   been   sufficient   for   Grand   Court   to   permit   the   Province   to   appoint   other   officers including    a    Deputy    Provincial    Grand    Master    and    at    Perranporth    on    the    28th. November   2011   the   Provincial   Grand   Secretary   was   rewarded   for   his   considerable efforts   by   receiving   that   preferment.   He   was,   immediately   further   rewarded   for   his effort   and   import   to   Grand   Court   by   a   promotion   to   Past   Grand   Sword   Bearer necessitating   the   prefix   of   Very   Worshipful   Brother.   The   Provincial   Grand   Master has   received   two   promotions   within   our   Reward   Order   of   the   Scarlet   Mantle   and   is presently    a    Knight    Commander    of    that    Order.    Due    to    its    relative    infancy    all members of the Province can justifiably claim to have been active participants   in   its   growth.   Some   have   already   been   rewarded   and   others   will,   in   due time,     receive     appropriate     preferment     but     it     is     appropriate     to     mention, chronologically,   four   of   our   brethren   who,   whilst   assisting   the   Provincial   Grand Master
W.Bro.George   E.R.   Gardner,   the   Primus   Provincial   Prior   and   PDepGGaurd.   is,   by   his present   frailty   both   physically   and   mentally,   prevented   from   being   here   today.   W.Bro. Colin   McGrath,   and   Bro`s   Stan   Wills   and   Dirk   Van   Eeden   were   called   to   the   Grand   Court above   before   their   contributions   could   be   recognised   in   a   practical   manner   but   it   would be   remiss   not   to   refer   to   and   remember   their   input   and   thus   influence   within   these celebrations. The   banner   of   the   Province   of   Wessex   is   blazoned   with   azure   with   a   heading   stating   that the   Province   meets   within   the   jurisdiction   of   the   Masonic   Order   of Athelstan.   It   depicts   a shield    bearing    an    inscription    that    translates    as    Athelstan    King    of    Wessex.    The background   is   identified   with   that   attributed   by   medieval   heralds   to   the   Kings   of   Wessex and   bears   upon   it   a   two   legged   dragon   with   erect   wings   and   a   spear-headed   tail.   This was   blazoned   as   Azure   with   a   cross   patance   between   four   martlets   (a   swift   or   fanciful bird   without   legs) .   The   Wyvem   is   shown   on   a   star   studded   chequered   carpet   that symbolises   safe   masonic   haven.   The   blue   bands   of   truth   connect   that   the   north,   south, east   and   west   of   the   Province   surrounded   by   the   waters   that   brought   the Anglo-Saxons to   Wessex.   Those   waters   that   later,   became   natural   defences   and   borders.   Finally,   at the   bottom   is   the   cross   patonce   from   Athelstan   heraldic   shield.   The   patonce   pattern   of cross   has   the   ends   of   its   limbs   trifurcated   into   leaf   shapes.   The   suspension   loops   and scroll are identical to the colours of the Provincial badge and collar. But   what   of   this   Kingdom   of   Wessex   or   Kingdom   of   the   West   that   we,   as   a   Masonic body,    are    privileged    to    represent?    Perhaps    somewhat    surprisingly    there    is    such    a plethora   of   information   as   to   necessitate   thought   as   to   what   to   omit   rather   than   seeking material   to   include.   The   Anglo-Saxon   Chronicles   advise   that   its   origins   are   during   the 6th.   Century   with   the   invasion   of   Cerdic   and   Cynric   but   there   are   historians   who   doubt the   authenticity   of   this   claim.   It   retained   its   kingdom   status   until   the   unification   of   the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms under Æþelstan in 924.
Later,   during   the   reign   of   Canute   it   became   an   earldom   which   was,   of   course,   how   the   various   early   regions   were considered   and   whilst,   after   the   Norman   Conquest,   it   was   dissolved   with   other   earldoms   being   shared   among   the followers   and   supporters   of   the   Conqueror,   the   title   of   the   Earl   of   Wessex   is   held   by   Edward   –   a   most   appropriate   name   - the youngest son of our present Sovereign. The   language   of   the   region   was   the   Old   English   or Anglo-Saxon.   The   original   religion   was   mainly   Pagan   with   Christianity having   little   influence   although   some   of   the   Kings   of   Wessex   were   Christians   with   one   making   a   pilgrimage   to   Rome.   It   is following   the   accession   of   Cynegil   in   617   that   the   acceptance   of   Christianity   began   to   quicken.   In   640   Cynegil   was baptised   by   Birius   a   West-Saxon   bishop   who   held   his   seat   at   Dorchester-on-Thames.   He   was   the   first   king   so   to   do   as   the others   had   been   baptised   outwith   the   kingdom.   There   was   no   immediate   conversion   of   his   followers   and   his   successor Cenwealh   was   a   pagan   at   his   accession   in   642   although,   when   he   converted   and   was   baptised   some   years   later,   Wessex became      firmly   established   and   well   known   as   a   Christian   kingdom.   The   Christian   religion   developed   with   astonishing rapidity   to   the   extent   that   the   penultimate   ruler   of Anglo-Saxon   England   was   beatified   as   Edward   the   Confessor   becoming a revered saint who would have considerable influence on later Norman and Plantagenet Rulers. Wessex   during   the   seventh   century   consisted   only   of   portions   of   present   day   Hampshire   and   Dorset.   This   was   followed by   a   gradual   advance   westwards   into   Devon   progressing   as   far   as   the   River Tamar;   a   river   that   has   always   been   a   natural border and barrier. Somerset and parts of Berkshire were later acquisitions. During   the   following   century   Wessex   remained   independent   of,   although   certainly   overshadowed   by,   Mercia;   a   kingdom then   at   the   height   of   its   power   subduing   and   gaining   control   over   the   smaller   kingdoms.   This   dominance   by   Mercia   within Gloucestershire   and   Oxfordshire,   curtailed   the   growth   of   Wessex   to   its   north   with   the   distinct   probability   of   the   Avon   and Thames   again   forming   natural   and   even   mutually   acceptable   borders.   The   capture,   by   Mercia,   of   the   see   at   Dorchester ensured   that   the   second   bishopric   that   had   been   recently   established   at   Winchester   resulted   in   that   city’s   development   as the   effective   capital   of   Wessex   It   is   during   this   period   that   the   system   of   shires,   a   system   of   local   administration,   was established within Wessex prior to its expansion throughout England and eventually Britain and Ireland. Until   the   year   802   the   sovereignty   of   Wessex   had   varied   in   its   family   lineage   with   the   stronger   or   more   dominant   family claiming   the   throne   but   with   the   accession   of   Egbert   the   throne   became   firmly   established   in   the   hands   of   a   single lineage.   He   has   acquired   little   fame   but   his   influence   is   much   underestimated.   He   entered   into   two   successful   campaigns against   the   West   Welsh   of   present   day   Cornwall.   The   first   was   in   813   and   the   second   822   when   the   western   Britons   of Devon   were   completely   overrun   and   those   beyond   the   River   Tamar   reduced   to   service   as   vassals.   Later,   in   825   he disturbed   the   existing   political   order   with   a   decisive   victory   over   Beornwulf   of   Mercia   thereby   taking   control   of   Surrey, Sussex,   Kent   and   Essex.   The   earldom   of   East   Anglia,   after   soliciting   his   assistance,   then   broke   away   from   Mercian control.    Astonishingly,    in    829    he    conquered    Mercia    and    drove    Wiglaf    into    exile    securing    from    Northumbria, acknowledgment   of   his   overlordship   thereby   becoming   known   as   the   Bretwalda,   or   high   king   of   Britain.   However,   this dominance    was    short-lived    when    Wiglaf    returned    from    exile    and    restored    Mercian    independence    in    830.    But    the expansion of Wessex across south-eastern England that had occurred under his leadership remained and was never lost. It   was   during   the   latter   years   of   his   reign   that   the   raids   of   the   Vikings   began.   In   851,   a   fleet,   reported   as   350   ships, appeared   in   the   estuary   of   the   Thames.   Following   their   victory   over   Mercia   the   Vikings   attempted   to   invade   Wessex   but were   soundly   by   defeated   Egbert's   son   and   successor   Æþelwulf.   Whilst   this   victory   postponed   Danish   conquests   it   did not stop the raids on Wessex. In   855   during   a   pilgrimage   to   Rome   By   Æþelwulf   his   eldest   son   seized   the   throne.   Upon   his   return,   and   to   avoid bloodshed, Æþelwulf agreed to divide the kingdom permitting his son to rule those newer portions in the east whilst he
  continued to control the old heartland of the west. Each of Æþelwulf`s four surviving sons ruled successively. First, the rebel Æþelbald followed by his brother Ethelbert, who having inherited his father’s portion reunited the kingdom by inheriting the remainder when Æþelbald died. Æþelred followed and, finally, Alfred the Great. This surprisingly quick last succession was occasioned by the deaths of the first two in wars with the Danes without issue and Aethelred's sons being too young to assume kingship when he died. Much has been written of Alfred; this meritorious of kings. The fifth son of Æþelwulf was born at Wantage in 849 becoming king at 21 and reigning for eighteen years. He was known and accepted as a pious and God fearing man. An inclination inherited by his grandson Æþelstan. He became an astute politician, encouraging learning and education and warmly welcoming literate visitors from the continent. He instigated the writing of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that provides us with such a fund of information although much, perhaps understandably, is complimentary to the king’s philosophies. An accomplishment  affecting future battles was the creation of a navy comprising of ships similar to those of the Vikings thus  permitting him to pursue and defeat his enemy on river and sea as well as land. Whilst Viking raids continued into Wessex they had, due to their successes in other parts of England, become less frequent and spasmodic but in 878, the Danes seized Chippenham in Wiltshire securing it as a base from which to devastate Wessex. The local population either surrendered or escaped with those of Hampshire fleeing to the Isle of Wight. The Wessex men were humiliated and reduced to becoming hit and run scavenging raiders within their own country scrounging or seizing provisions when they could. Alfred, with his bodyguard and a number of followers and having the earldorman of Somerset Æþelnoth as his ally, entered into the Somerset tidal marshes wherein, it is believed, he had hunted in his youth. It was during this period that Alfred allegedly burned some cakes which he had been asked to look after. Alfred was not only brave but had developed into a good and tactical general proving both resourceful and calculating. He studied and considered the Danish strategy and adopted similar tactics. He formed a fortified base within the Somerset marshes at Athelney and supported by men from Somerset, with others from Wiltshire and part of Hampshire, pursued guerrilla warfare against the Danes and in May 878, Alfred's army defeated the Danes at the battle of Edington. His contemporary biographer Bishop Asser states, ' Alfred attacked the whole pagan army fighting ferociously in dense order, and by divine will eventually won the victory, made great slaughter among them, and pursued them to their fortress (Chippenham) ... After fourteen days the pagans were brought to the extreme depths of despair by hunger, cold and fear,  and they sought peace'.This totally unexpected victory was the commencement of Wessex's survival. Alfred facing the reality that he could not force the Danes from the remainder of England agreed peace with them at Wedmore. The Danish king Guthrum was converted to Christianity with Alfred as godfather. A considerable number of Danes travelled to East Anglia and settled as farmers. 886 saw Alfred negotiating a treaty in which the frontier was determined along the Roman Watling Street with northern and eastern England under the jurisdiction of the Danes and becoming known as 'Danelaw' whilst Alfred assumed control of portions of West Mercia and Kent that had previously been beyond the boundaries of Wessex.  But, whilst the initial foundation for the eminence of Æþelstan was laid by Alfred it was firmly enforced by his son and daughter Edward the Elder and Æþelflæd. The latter becoming a most formidable lady and warrior whose exploits could equal those of Boedica. For, whilst Alfred appears to have been content to extend Wessex to those borders he considered acceptable and natural this did not apply to his off-spring. If you seek advice from recognised historians as to the longest reigning house and therefore having  greatest effect within England the response would, with little doubt, be the Plantagenet that began in 1216 with the accession of Henry II and ceased in 1485 with the death of Richard II, a total of 169 years. However, the House of Wessex originated with Cerdic in 519 and ceased at Hastings in 1066 i.e. 547 years. Whilst appreciating that the 29 years of the Danish monarchies of Sweyn Forkbeard, Cnut, Harald Harefoot and Harthcnut reduces that to 518 it is a considerable period for one house to be in control of a kingdom’s destiny. Amonst the prolific writings of Matthew Paris on heraldic and armorial signs I cannot find reference to any for Æþelstan in particular so I had to seek elsewhere. This is puzzling as whilst the armorial signature of Wessex is as described by the Most Worshipful Grand Master I have found reference advising that two kings of which Æþelstan is one. His arms were, according to this reference, saltire (diagonal cross)  gules (tincture of red) and azure (blue) orb (sphere usually surmounted by a Cross) blazoned as vert (green)  cross potent (crutch cross) fitchy (pointed) argent (tincture of silver) and, in the dexter (left when facing) , the Virgin and Child in glory but this description does not agree in every respect, with that shown below that is purported to be taken from official sources.  Whilst the dictionary definition of a Wyvern states a forked tail it is invariably shown with a spear or arrow headed tail although as you will see from the above, it is correct as such on Alfred’s shield. Papworth’s Armorial advises the arms blazoned as described within the explanation of the symbolism given by the Most Worshipful Grand Master but, as is normal amongst historians, there are contradictions with  Boutell’s Heraldry describing a variant that whilst agreeing the azure (blue)  background describes a cross florybetween four doves. W.& Em.Bro. Mervyn S Western DepEmGPrior,ProvGSW LINK TO TOP OF PAGE
                   © 2008 Provincial Grand Court of Wessex
The Provincial Grand Court of WESSEX
The address to Brethren on the Banner Dedication. Presented by : The Most Worshipful GRAND MASTER: Michael H Roalfe, PGHCh, GCSM
Link To Address, MWGM Link To Address, MWGM Selection of Photographs Selection of Photographs
       oday we witness the Dedication of a Banner to the Province of Wessex within The Masonic Order of Athelstan in England, Wales  and Provinces Overseas. Until June 2008, such a short time ago, the Province of Wessex was purely a phrase within the Order to refer to an area consisting of Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Bristol, Devon  and Cornwall. Since its formation, under the direction of R.W. Bro. Malcolm James Burns ; the Primus Provincial Grand Master; the Province has flourished. He has been greatly assisted from  its formation by his close friend W.Bro. Brian George Wright the Provincial Grand Secretary and Deputy Grand Secretary. The successful growth has been sufficient for Grand Court to permit the Province to appoint other officers including a Deputy Provincial Grand Master and at Perranporth on the 28th. November 2011 the Provincial Grand Secretary was rewarded for his considerable efforts by receiving that preferment. He was, immediately further rewarded     for    his    effort    and    import    to    Grand    Court    by    a    promotion    to    Past    Grand    Sword    Bearer necessitating   the   prefix   of   Very   Worshipful   Brother.   The   Provincial   Grand   Master   has   received two    promotions    within    our    Reward    Order    of    the    Scarlet    Mantle    and    is    presently    a    Knight Commander   of   that   Order.   Due   to   its   relative   infancy   all   members   of   the   Province   can   justifiably claim   to   have   been   active   participants   in   its   growth.   Some   have   already   been   rewarded   and others will, in due time, receive appropriate preferment but it is appropriate to                                              mention,   chronologically,   four   of   our   brethren   who,   whilst   assisting   the   Provincial                                                G              Grand Master.
W.Bro.George   E.R.   Gardner,   the   Primus   Provincial   Prior   and   PDepGGaurd.   is,   by   his present   frailty   both   physically   and   mentally,   prevented   from   being   here   today.   W.Bro. Colin   McGrath,   and   Bro`s   Stan   Wills   and   Dirk   Van   Eeden   were   called   to   the   Grand Court   above   before   their   contributions   could   be   recognised   in   a   practical   manner   but   it would   be   remiss   not   to   refer   to   and   remember   their   input   and   thus   influence   within these celebrations. The   banner   of   the   Province   of   Wessex   is   blazoned   with   azure   with   a   heading   stating that   the   Province   meets   within   the   jurisdiction   of   the   Masonic   Order   of   Athelstan.   It depicts   a   shield   bearing   an   inscription   that   translates   as   Athelstan   King   of   Wessex. The   background   is   identified   with   that   attributed   by   medieval   heralds   to   the   Kings   of Wessex   and   bears   upon   it   a   two   legged   dragon   with   erect   wings   and   a   spear-headed tail. This   was   blazoned   as Azure   with   a   cross   patance   between   four   martlets   (a   swift   or fanciful   bird   without   legs) .   The   Wyvem   is   shown   on   a   star   studded   chequered   carpet that   symbolises   safe   masonic   haven.   The   blue   bands   of   truth   connect   that   the   north, south,   east   and   west   of   the   Province   surrounded   by   the   waters   that   brought   the Anglo- Saxons   to   Wessex.   Those   waters   that   later,   became   natural   defences   and   borders. Finally,   at   the   bottom   is   the   cross   patonce   from Athelstan   heraldic   shield.   The   patonce pattern   of   cross   has   the   ends   of   its   limbs   trifurcated   into   leaf   shapes.   The   suspension loops and scroll are identical to the colours of the Provincial badge and collar. But   what   of   this   Kingdom   of   Wessex   or   Kingdom   of   the   West   that   we,   as   a   Masonic body,   are   privileged   to   represent?   Perhaps   somewhat   surprisingly   there   is   such   a plethora   of   information   as   to   necessitate   thought   as   to   what   to   omit   rather   than   seeking material   to   include.   The   Anglo-Saxon   Chronicles   advise   that   its   origins   are   during   the 6th.   Century   with   the   invasion   of   Cerdic   and   Cynric   but   there   are   historians   who   doubt the   authenticity   of   this   claim.   It   retained   its   kingdom   status   until   the   unification   of   the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms under Æþelstan in 924.
Later,   during   the   reign   of   Canute   it   became   an   earldom   which   was,   of   course,   how   the   various   early regions   were   considered   and   whilst,   after   the   Norman   Conquest,   it   was   dissolved   with   other   earldoms being   shared   among   the   followers   and   supporters   of   the   Conqueror,   the   title   of   the   Earl   of   Wessex   is   held by Edward – a most appropriate name - the youngest son of our present Sovereign. The   language   of   the   region   was   the   Old   English   or   Anglo-Saxon.   The   original   religion   was   mainly   Pagan with   Christianity   having   little   influence   although   some   of   the   Kings   of   Wessex   were   Christians   with   one making   a   pilgrimage   to   Rome.   It   is   following   the   accession   of   Cynegil   in   617   that   the   acceptance   of Christianity   began   to   quicken.   In   640   Cynegil   was   baptised   by   Birius   a   West-Saxon   bishop   who   held   his seat   at   Dorchester-on-Thames.   He   was   the   first   king   so   to   do   as   the   others   had   been   baptised   outwith   the kingdom.   There   was   no   immediate   conversion   of   his   followers   and   his   successor   Cenwealh   was   a   pagan at   his   accession   in   642   although,   when   he   converted   and   was   baptised   some   years   later,   Wessex   became     firmly    established    and    well    known    as    a    Christian    kingdom.    The    Christian    religion    developed    with astonishing   rapidity   to   the   extent   that   the   penultimate   ruler   of   Anglo-Saxon   England   was   beatified   as Edward   the   Confessor   becoming   a   revered   saint   who   would   have   considerable   influence   on   later   Norman and Plantagenet Rulers. Wessex   during   the   seventh   century   consisted   only   of   portions   of   present   day   Hampshire   and   Dorset.   This was   followed   by   a   gradual   advance   westwards   into   Devon   progressing   as   far   as   the   River   Tamar;   a   river that    has    always    been    a    natural    border    and    barrier.    Somerset    and    parts    of    Berkshire    were    later acquisitions. During   the   following   century   Wessex   remained   independent   of,   although   certainly   overshadowed   by, Mercia;   a   kingdom   then   at   the   height   of   its   power   subduing   and   gaining   control   over   the   smaller   kingdoms. This   dominance   by   Mercia   within   Gloucestershire   and   Oxfordshire,   curtailed   the   growth   of   Wessex   to   its north   with   the   distinct   probability   of   the   Avon   and   Thames   again   forming   natural   and   even   mutually acceptable   borders.   The   capture,   by   Mercia,   of   the   see   at   Dorchester   ensured   that   the   second   bishopric that   had   been   recently   established   at   Winchester   resulted   in   that   city’s   development   as   the   effective capital   of   Wessex   It   is   during   this   period   that   the   system   of   shires,   a   system   of   local   administration,   was established within Wessex prior to its expansion throughout England and eventually Britain and Ireland. Until   the   year   802   the   sovereignty   of   Wessex   had   varied   in   its   family   lineage   with   the   stronger   or   more dominant   family   claiming   the   throne   but   with   the   accession   of   Egbert   the   throne   became   firmly   established in   the   hands   of   a   single   lineage.   He   has   acquired   little   fame   but   his   influence   is   much   underestimated.   He entered   into   two   successful   campaigns   against   the   West   Welsh   of   present   day   Cornwall.   The   first   was   in 813   and   the   second   822   when   the   western   Britons   of   Devon   were   completely   overrun   and   those   beyond the   River Tamar   reduced   to   service   as   vassals.   Later,   in   825   he   disturbed   the   existing   political   order   with   a decisive   victory   over   Beornwulf   of   Mercia   thereby   taking   control   of   Surrey,   Sussex,   Kent   and   Essex.   The earldom    of    East    Anglia,    after    soliciting    his    assistance,    then    broke    away    from    Mercian    control. Astonishingly,    in    829    he    conquered    Mercia    and    drove    Wiglaf    into    exile    securing    from    Northumbria, acknowledgment   of   his   overlordship   thereby   becoming   known   as   the   Bretwalda,   or   high   king   of   Britain. However,    this    dominance    was    short-lived    when    Wiglaf    returned    from    exile    and    restored    Mercian independence   in   830.   But   the   expansion   of   Wessex   across   south-eastern   England   that   had   occurred under his leadership remained and was never lost. It   was   during   the   latter   years   of   his   reign   that   the   raids   of   the   Vikings   began.   In   851,   a   fleet,   reported   as 350   ships,   appeared   in   the   estuary   of   the   Thames.   Following   their   victory   over   Mercia   the   Vikings attempted   to   invade   Wessex   but   were   soundly   by   defeated   Egbert's   son   and   successor   Æþelwulf.   Whilst this victory postponed Danish conquests it did not stop the raids on Wessex. In   855   during   a   pilgrimage   to   Rome   By   Æþelwulf   his   eldest   son   seized   the   throne.   Upon   his   return,   and   to avoid   bloodshed,   Æþelwulf   agreed   to   divide   the   kingdom   permitting   his   son   to   rule   those   newer   portions   in the   east   whilst   he   continued   to   control   the   old   heartland   of   the   west.   Each   of   Æþelwulf`s   four   surviving   sons   ruled successively. First, the rebel Æþelbald followed by his brother Ethelbert, who having inherited his father’s portion reunited the kingdom by inheriting the remainder when Æþelbald died. Æþelred followed and, finally, Alfred the Great. This surprisingly quick last succession was occasioned by the deaths of the first two in wars with the Danes without issue and Aethelred's sons being too young to assume kingship when he died. Much has been written of Alfred; this meritorious of kings. The fifth son of Æþelwulf was born at Wantage in 849 becoming king at 21 and reigning for eighteen years. He was known and accepted as a pious and God fearing man. An inclination inherited by his grandson Æþelstan. He became an astute politician, encouraging learning and education and warmly welcoming literate visitors from the continent. He instigated the writing of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that provides us with such a fund of information although much, perhaps understandably, is complimentary to the king’s philosophies. An accomplishment  affecting future battles was the creation of a navy comprising of ships similar to those of the Vikings thus  permitting him to pursue and defeat his enemy on river and sea as well as land. Whilst Viking raids continued into Wessex they had, due to their successes in other parts of England, become less frequent and spasmodic but in 878, the Danes seized Chippenham in Wiltshire securing it as a base from which to devastate Wessex. The local population either surrendered or escaped with those of Hampshire fleeing to the Isle of Wight. The Wessex men were humiliated and reduced to becoming hit and run scavenging raiders within their own country scrounging or seizing provisions when they could. Alfred, with his bodyguard and a number of followers and having the earldorman of Somerset Æþelnoth as his ally, entered into the Somerset tidal marshes wherein, it is believed, he had hunted in his youth. It was during this period that Alfred allegedly burned some cakes which he had been asked to look after. Alfred was not only brave but had developed into a good and tactical general proving both resourceful and calculating. He studied and considered the Danish strategy and adopted similar tactics. He formed a fortified base within the Somerset marshes at Athelney and supported by men from Somerset, with others from Wiltshire and part of Hampshire, pursued guerrilla warfare against the Danes and in May 878, Alfred's army defeated the Danes at the battle of Edington. His contemporary biographer Bishop Asser states, ' Alfred attacked the whole pagan army fighting ferociously in dense order, and by divine will eventually won the victory, made great slaughter among them, and pursued them to their fortress (Chippenham) ... After fourteen days the pagans were brought to the extreme depths of despair by hunger, cold and fear,  and they sought peace'.This totally unexpected victory was the commencement of Wessex's survival. Alfred facing the reality that he could not force the Danes from the remainder of England agreed peace with them at Wedmore. The Danish king Guthrum was converted to Christianity with Alfred as godfather. A considerable number of Danes travelled to East Anglia and settled as farmers. 886 saw Alfred negotiating a treaty in which the frontier was determined along the Roman Watling Street with northern and eastern England under the jurisdiction of the Danes and becoming known as 'Danelaw' whilst Alfred assumed control of portions of West Mercia and Kent that had previously been beyond the boundaries of Wessex.  But, whilst the initial foundation for the eminence of Æþelstan was laid by Alfred it was firmly enforced by his son and daughter Edward the Elder and Æþelflæd. The latter becoming a most formidable lady and warrior whose exploits could equal those of Boedica. For, whilst Alfred appears to have been content to extend Wessex to those borders he considered acceptable and natural this did not apply to his off-spring. If you seek advice from recognised historians as to the longest reigning house and therefore having  greatest effect within England the response would, with little doubt, be the Plantagenet that began in 1216 with the accession of Henry II and ceased in 1485 with the death of Richard II, a total of 169 years. However, the House of Wessex originated with Cerdic in 519 and ceased at Hastings in 1066 i.e. 547 years. Whilst appreciating that the 29 years of the Danish monarchies of Sweyn Forkbeard, Cnut, Harald Harefoot and Harthcnut reduces that to 518 it is a considerable period for one house to be in control of a kingdom’s destiny. Amonst the prolific writings of Matthew Paris on heraldic and armorial signs I cannot find reference to any for Æþelstan in particular so I had to seek elsewhere. This is puzzling as whilst the armorial signature of Wessex is as described by the Most Worshipful Grand Master I have found reference advising that two kings of which Æþelstan is one. His arms were, according to this reference, saltire (diagonal cross)  gules (tincture of red) and azure (blue) orb (sphere usually surmounted by a Cross) blazoned as vert (green)  cross potent (crutch cross) fitchy (pointed) argent (tincture of silver) and, in the dexter (left when facing) , the Virgin and Child in glory but this description does not agree in every respect, with that shown below that is purported to be taken from official sources.  Whilst the dictionary definition of a Wyvern states a forked tail it is invariably shown with a spear or arrow headed tail although as you will see from the above, it is correct as such on Alfred’s shield. Papworth’s Armorial advises the arms blazoned as described within the explanation of the symbolism given by the Most Worshipful Grand Master but, as is normal amongst historians, there are contradictions with  Boutell’s Heraldry describing a variant that whilst agreeing the azure (blue)  background describes a cross florybetween four doves. W.& Em.Bro. Mervyn S Western DepEmGPrior,ProvGSW LINK TO TOP OF PAGE